Sunday, April 1, 2012

The three trees

M. has another one of his mystical experiences while on a carriage ride in the countryside with Mlle de Villeparisis. He sees three trees which recall a happiness that he cannot remember, or put into thought.

"I looked at the three trees; I could see them plainly, but my mind felt that they were concealing something which it could not grasp, as when an object is placed out of our reach... Where had I looked at them before? Were they not numbered among...dreamscapes...?"

"...They were inviting me to probe a new thought, [and] I imagined that I had to identify an old memory... I chose rather to believe they were phantoms of the past."

"I watched the trees gradually recede, waving their despairing arms, seeming to say to me: 'What you fail to learn from us today, you will never know.'"

"And when, the road having forked and the carriage with it, I turned my back on them and ceased to see them, while Mme de Villeparisis asked me what I was dreaming about, I was as wretched as if I had just lost a  friend, had died myself, had broken faith with the dead or repudiated a god."

It is these kinds of associations and memories that Proust explores in the final volume, the "truths" of the past that were never clear to him; at last, at the very end, the past becomes real.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, just found this. I've always thought of this triple tree story as an echo of the earlier three spires story in Swan's Way. I've also seen comments on this as being purposeful.
    What always strikes me about Proust is his perceptions of these simple "optical" illusions. We've all seen these types of illusions. Driving towards Manhattan, there is a tall Citibank building in Long Island City in Queens that from certain angles as the road winds, appears to be part of the Manhattan skyline, and to dominate that skyline until one reaches the spot where it is clear it is in fact in Queens, on the other side of the river.